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D65 preschool teachers to get COVID ‘hero pay’

Essential and frontline workers received plenty of applause and thank-you’s during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But applause and thank yous won’t pay the bills.

So to make the thank-you’s have a bit more impact, 53 Head Start and Early Head Start staffers in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will be getting $3,000 each in what’s being called “Hazard/Hero Pay.” The money comes from the supplementary American Rescue Plan signed last year by President Biden, and is available to Head Start programs nationwide.

The District 65 Board of Education approved the one-time, lump-sum bonus payments earlier this week, for Head Start workers on the job between March 2020 and this month.

An administration memo says the money will serve as an incentive to those who worked through the many challenges of COVID, and continue to do so.

“Maintaining and securing well qualified staff and reducing turnover,” the memo says, “is one of the greatest challenges facing District 65’s Early Childhood Program.”

The district is getting a total of $163,929 for the bonus program. All but $159,000 is for direct payment to the employees, the remainder will help cover a portion of taxes.

Early childhood positions are among the lowest paid in education.

The District 65 website currently lists eight job openings. A Head Start paraprofessional position, for example, starts at $15.59 per hour.

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